Word by Word at Luxembourg & Dayan

Curated by Francesco Bonami

A picture may indeed tell a thousand words but there can be no doubt the opposite is also true. The pictures we paint for ourselves given the words to read can sometimes be even more telling. This exhibition on London's Savile Row takes work from the mid 1960s to the present and offers a broad brush stroke of how words have been adopted by contemporary artists over the last fifty years. Text has appeared in many forms beyond that of the artist's signature since the turn of the Twentieth Century and perhaps within the context of Conceptualism, words have made the greatest impact. 

The oldest piece in this show is the most crucial; One and Three Lamps by Joseph Kosuth comprises of a lamp, a mounted photograph of the lamp taken from the current location of the lamp and a snapshot from a dictionary blown up large of the definition of a lamp. And there we have it; three versions of the same thing. Raising important questions of what is real, how do we define and understand what is real and even what constitutes the work of an artist. Alternate versions of this includes chairs, drawers – each created upon a simple but strict order of instructions about placement, order and curation. These instructions are also written down and constitute some of the earliest uses of text as a conceptual starting point.

One and Three Lamps by Joseph Kosuth

One and Three Lamps by Joseph Kosuth

Notable omissions from this exhibition include artists from the last two reviews. Jenny Holzer's scrolling or engraved texts would have been at home amongst the shown pieces, including Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince, Joseph Beuys, Carl Andre and Christopher Wool. Although often sidelined as a Land Artist, not a title the artist appreciates, Richard Long could also have been included within these names. His conceptual and poetic writings are a counterpoint and parallel to On Kawara's epic series of date paintings, each one created on the day of its focus. Very much to the point, the series brings with it relevance and importance beyond the canvas, open armed to the issues of the day. 

May 19, 1991 by On Kawara

May 19, 1991 by On Kawara

Marine Hugonnier and Rirkit Tiravanija tackle concerns of the time within their work directly, both using newspaper pages within their contributions to the show. Versions of magazine covers from 1986 are hand drawn by Alighiero Boetti and Beuys' mark making is in chalk on blackboard - protected for prosperity by glass. Excerpts from HG Wells' Time Machine are painted over by Tim Rollins and in a recent work Richard Prince covers up all but the word 'lovely' leaving an almost white canvas. Notes are pinned on the wall, work is painted directly over the door; the show offers an interestingly broad look at how text has been utilised and prioritised in a visual form. 

UNtitled (same but not equal) by Rirkit Tiravanija

UNtitled (same but not equal) by Rirkit Tiravanija

http://www.luxembourgdayan.com/exhibitions/38/works/ until September 5th